If you come into an ER with chest pain and shortness of breath – a suspected heart attack – a diagnostic engine fires.
From a tube of your blood, the lab runs a quick panel of tests that can detect the telltale molecular markers of a heart attack. Electrodes applied to your chest may reveal an irregular heart rhythm. And imaging scans might show if there is a dangerous blockage of one of your arteries.
These tests provide clinicians evidence of the medical problem at hand and, with the results, the physician has a better grasp on the necessary course of treatment.
But for a patient with symptoms of mental illness – mood changes, fatigue, insomnia, hallucinations, delusions, lack of interest in usual activities – there are no scans, no blood tests that can aid in the psychiatric evaluation. Diagnosis and choice of treatment rely solely on clinical symptoms and medical history.
A new project at Vanderbilt Medical Center hopes to change that by applying the tools of neuroscience research – specifically, neuroimaging and genetics – to identify “tests” that may aid in the diagnosis and treatment of psychiatric illness. continued>>